Singing on the Heavy Side of the World

by John P. Deever

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When John Deever became one of the first Peace Corps volunteers in Ukraine, he found people living under an incredible weight -- oppressive economic conditions, perpetually overcast skies, diet dominated by heavy root vegetables and alcohol. Yet in that place where even his young students carried the difficulty of daily life like a heavy burden, he also found new friends who took joy in the simplest pleasures and were thrilled to encounter the wider world through the first American most had ever known. With affection for his subject, Deever brings this little-known part of the world to life. His stories combine the frustrations of a traveler in an alien culture with vivid descriptions of endearing children, raucous classes, lots and lots of singing, and falling in love.

Part memoir, part travel narrative, his story describes daily life and adjustment to an unfamiliar place. His story is especially to directed to those curious about teaching in a foreign country or volunteering overseas. Like other Peace Corps narratives -- The Ponds of Kalambayi or The Village of Waiting -- it tells of how an individual off to change the world returns home most changed of all. One of the few in-depth travel narratives focusing exclusively on Ukraine, it portrays a face of the country about which guidebooks hint at but rarely show. It contributes to that body of writing that attempts to put human faces on a neglected, fascinating nation that was once our country's Cold War antagonist.

Singing on the Heavy Side of the World

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Alexandra Josephine Deever | john at deever dot com

Updated July 8 2004.